“A Living For-Instance”: embracing a teleological vision of beloved community in American Baptist Women's Ministries
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This thesis examines the theological and practical functioning of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA, as it has engaged in a “Becoming Beloved Community” initiative. It argues that theological grounding in a vision of Beloved Community is a necessary missing element in transforming the way the organization pursues its mission. Since 2014, the organization has conducted a cultural audit, assessing attitudes and readiness, and it has developed some strategies and tactics as a result. However, without a solid theological grounding and a deeper understanding of what adhering to a vision of beloved community may mean in terms of structure and decision-making processes, these strategies and tactics are less effective than they could be. This thesis draws upon the writings of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr., on process theology, and on woman’s liberation theologies to assess current practices in AB Women’s Ministries and provide a more robust theological grounding for the concept of “Becoming Beloved Community.” In constructing the theological grounding, a list of marks of beloved community is developed and used as an evaluative tool for current practices in the organization. Using adaptive leadership theory and complexity leadership theory, the thesis also develops recommendations for the future.